Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 5: Where do you like to knit?

Today's topic is: Where do you like to indulge in your craft? Is your favourite arm chair your little knitting cubby area, or do you prefer to ‘knit in public’? Do you like to crochet in the great outdoors, perhaps, or knit in the bath, or at the pub?

I knit pretty much wherever I'll be sitting around without anything to take my complete attention or requiring the use of my hands. I keep knitting in my purse and pull it out at the playground when Lilah is busy building sand castles. Or in waiting rooms, at my book club, in the car (not while I'm driving). Since I started knitting, I can't stand to sit and just watch television anymore - I knit while I watch. Same with the movie theater. Stockinette in the round is really the best for movie theater knitting. Nothing ruins a movie like dropping a stitch half an hour in! One of my favorite spots to knit is on our porch swing while Lilah plays, but that's not as common as knitting down at the playground/lake because when I'm outside our house, I tend to feel compelled to make a dent in the endless supply of weeds. With the right book (hardcovers are easiest), I've found that I can knit sitting cross-legged while reading, using a toe to keep the book open if it's uncooperative.

Possibly the weirdest place I've knit is at Wrigley Field. I got some odd looks, but the guy next to me started asking questions when he realized I was able to follow the game at the same time (I was knitting a Booga Bag, which I could do in my sleep). I knit the whole way from Bratislava to Budapest in a rental van on vacation with my husband's family. I've knit standing in line at the DMV to get my license renewed.

I don't have any qualms about knitting in public. Sure, sometimes I get weird looks, but I don't particularly care what random people think about it. But I do draw the line at events like weddings and graduations, because it just seems rude. Even if I know I can pay attention while knitting, other people don't get that, and may interpret it as not caring about the event. Same with therapy. Any time it's important enough that I feel my attention shouldn't be divided even a little bit, I leave the knitting at home.

Knitting by the lake:

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 4: Wild Card

Today's topic is: Today's topic is about what other related crafts we'd like to learn someday. Knitting blog aside, I am actually not a particularly crafty person. So I decided to use the wild card question for Day 4.

Do you have a particular knitting/crochet tool or piece of equipment that you love to use? Maybe it is an old bent pair of needles that used to belong to someone special, or a gorgeous rosewood hand-turned crochet hook that you just love the feel of? Write about what you love about it.

Yes, I do! When I started knitting, all my tools were of the pink and blue plastic stitch marker variety, because they were cheap and I didn't know if the knitting thing would stick. After I'd been at it a few years, I decided I really wanted nice tools that made me happy to use. Here are some of my favorites:

The bag was a gift from KnitPastis, a knitblogging friend. When she started selling her creations online, I bought some stitch markers - the lovely beaded one is hers.

The lovely wooden needle case was made by Stefaneener's father-in-law. The sock measuring tools, gauge square, wooden stitch markers, and Knitter's Rule are from KaratStix's Etsy Shop. I had coveted these after seeing them around the blogosphere, but it took me a long time to get mine. For the same reason I don't have a tattoo - I couldn't think of something that was so me I wanted it on my tools, and I didn't just want to get sheep and yarn. Finally, it hit me, and I asked her to design a Jane Austen-themed set, with tea things, pen-and-ink, books. Lovely, isn't it? And so much more substantial than my cheap plastic gauge. The notions bag is from Katie Fleck Designs on Etsy, replacing a freebie cosmetics bag that had served in that capacity.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 3: One Great Knitter

Today's topic is: One Great Knitter

Write about a knitter whose work (whether because of project choice, photography, styling, scale of projects, stash, etc) you enjoy. If they have an enjoyable blog, you might find it a good opportunity to send a smile their way.

I love all the knitters to whom I link off to the left. No, sorry, the right. I've always had a problem with that. I could pick any of them, really, but I'll talk about Stefaneener. I want to be Stefaneener when I grow up. She's a knitter, spinner, and dyer (from her homegrown indigo, no less). Gardener and beekeeper. Mom to four. Wow. She also got me into one of my culinary loves, preserving, with her talk of the fantastic cooking she does. And she runs. I've always wished I wanted to run...

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 2: Aspiration

Today's topic is: Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

I choose to learn knitting skills in order to make the projects I want to make. I learned to cable when I found a pattern I really wanted to make that required it. I learned lace when I found a lace pattern. Knitting is a relaxing and satisfying hobby for me, and I don't have any particular level of mastery I want to achieve. However, one pattern in my queue really fits this "aspirational" question, and that's Shipwreck Shawl. I love this shawl, and I really want to have one for myself. It involves beading, which I've never done, and it's BIG. After I'm done with my summer tops kick, I would love to get this on the needles.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 1: How did I get started?

Today's topic is: Starting Out
How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

Sometime in late 2003, after getting married, moving to Wisconsin, and starting a new job, it got in my head to learn to knit. I remember knitting was getting popular at the time, but no one in particular inspired me. It just sounded fun. My grandmother has crocheted for as long as I remember, but aside from making some long chains, it never stuck with me. I approached learning knitting the way I approach most things: in books. I combed Amazon for promising-sounded introductory books and ordered Folk Shawls The Knit Stitch, and Vogue Knitting. I didn't yet know about the magic of online yarn shopping, so I went to a craft store and bought some chenille yarn and size 10 metal needles. Yeah, I know. Chenille. Ugh. After trying and failing to cast on about a dozen times, I went to the craft store and switched to wooden needles and Lion Brand Wool-Ease. I noodled around with knitting and purling, and then I picked a stitch pattern from Vogue Knitting (St. Charles Brocade) and did a scarf. It curled dreadfully because I hadn't learned about needing an edging on stockinette projects. But it was recognizable as a scarf, and I was hooked. Then I did a scarf from The Knit Stitch (the Dr. Who Scarf, lots of fun), using Patons Wool I bought online (yay, online shopping!). Next, I did a hat from The Knit Stitch, my first project in the round, in Mountain Colors, and that was when I turned into a yarn snob. The Mountain Colors was so soft and pretty and so very much nicer than the Lion Brand or the Patons. Not an exciting story, by any stretch!

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Catching Up

It seems like I am always catching up. Here I go again. This time, it's in preparation for:

Hosted by Eskimimi Knits, it runs April 26-May 2, with a different topic every day. I am not a joiner. I rarely do knit-a-longs, read-a-longs, or any other-a-longs. But I first read about this on a lovely blog I recently discovered, Untangling Knots, and I thought, well, I'll at least SEE what the topics are. Then I can grumble that I don't like them and not participate. But...the first day's topic was sort of fun. And the second day's. And well, I could use an excuse to try daily blogging for a week. It beats monthly blogging! This isn't necessarily a knitting blog, but knitting is a big enough part that this seems like a good fit.

Speaking of knitting: Still going on Camisa. I'm knitting the bottom of the back. Stockinette. Not much to say there. I'm not sure I'm going to like the side-vent approach to avoiding waist shaping. We'll see.

Reading: I'm more or less caught up on the book blog. I did just finish a fantastic book, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant, which takes place in a fairy-tale-like German village where girls begin disappearing...and not for the first time. The ending was literally a nail-biter.

Writing: Indeed! I dreamed the opening line for my murder mystery and magically found the exact voice I need. I'm re-writing chapter one in the new voice with some major changes. It feels like I'm finally writing the book rather than background. Much less wordy, less convoluted plot, much more divorced from reality. Um, not that it's based on any real-life experiences working in an insane theater company. Ahem.

Cooking: So we had friends over for dinner, and I used Wine Bar Food for all the recipes. I made Parmesan Flatbread, Faux Gras (yes, faux! not a goose part in sight!), Crispy Toma Cheese With Eggplant (no Toma at my store; I used a goat's milk Brie), a spinach salad with crispy shallots, a stuffed wild mushroom pizza, and Amaretto Polenta Cake. Everything was lovely, though I actually didn't care for the faux gras; it was too meat-ish for me. I really like this book, written by Tony Mantuano of Chicago's Spiaggia restaurant. I haven't been to Spiaggia, but we have been to Mangia, his restaurant in my husband's hometown. The book is nowhere near vegetarian, but I love it anyway. It's organized by region (all vaguely Mediterranean) and explores the wines of each while providing small dishes to accompany them. I mix dishes from several different regions, and I've never cooked a dud from this book. I pull it out for entertaining; it's really not an everyday cooking source.

We have a new Lilah-approved family meal standard. Sesame Noodles With Broccoli has been a favorite recipe for me for a while, but Lilah was less enthusiastic. I revamped it a little and had her help me stir in the sauce, and she ate a big bowl and asked for more. It's also the only way I can get Matt to eat broccoli... Modifications: I leave out the hot chili paste when I make it for Lilah. I always leave out the honey. I don't like raw onions, so I leave out the green onion (although I sometimes stir-fry tofu to accompany this and will stir-fry the onion with it). I also use at least double the veggies (I had three broccoli crowns and four large carrots, which I used up) and don't bother matchsticking the carrots - I slice them and add them to the water when I add the broccoli. I always double the sauce for a pound of pasta, and we use whatever pasta is around (though I personally love soba, Lilah loves corkscrews and bow ties, so we use those a lot).

Lilah stirring:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Long Time, No Blog

Oops, I went forever without blogging again. It happens. Part of it is that Audrey has taken forever. It's actually quite a quick and easy pattern, but I wasn't knitting much, and then I spent some time after the front and back were finished dithering over whether or not to attempt short sleeves instead of the three-quarter length in the pattern. But I'm pleased with the result.

Also, note the hair. I finally made it to shoulder-length, which means I can stick it up in a clip or a ponytail, so it's not driving me nuts anymore. I've convinced myself it looks breezy rather than messy.

I can get Matt to take decent pictures, but he's not very artistic about it. You get the front:

The back:

The lace edge:

The increase line:

Pattern details:

Pattern: Audrey from Rowan 35, size 36"
Yarn: Rowan Calmer, in Carnation, 5 skeins
Needles: Size 7 and 8
Notes: I really like this pattern. I like the visible increase/decrease shaping. I like the easy ribbing. I love the detail of the lace at the neck. It fits very well and it's comfy, but nice enough to wear with a summery skirt.

Modifications: I decided on short sleeves. I cast on the number of stitches for each sleeve at the point of sleeve cap shaping, worked four rows, then started cap shaping. It worked beautifully, and I’ll use a short-sleeved top much more often. Based on past comments about the neckband being too big, I made the lace edging shorter than the circumference of the neckline. I really had to stretch the lace around to sew it on. It worked perfectly - I love the neckline on this. It stays up well, but isn’t too tight.

Other knitting:

The start of Camisa in Calmer in Garnet:

Oh! The garden has been coming along:

We built two raised beds, each 4 feet square, using this template. One is a salsa garden, with tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, peppers, and cilantro. The other has squash, peas, strawberries, arugula, and carrots. Lilah and I are having a great time with gardening.

Reading: I'm behind on the book blog again. Hope to catch up this week.

Writing: Some. Lilah had her spring break last week, which is the opposite of spring break for me. I'm producing on the murder mystery, and noodling with snippets of other things.

Cooking: Oh, two months of cooking? Geez. Of note are the Natural, Homemade Thin Mints, which are a bit of a pain but absolutely fantastic. I also made Dutch Crunch Vienna Bread from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Lovely, delicious bread. I'll be making it again, along with Reinhart's sourdough and bagel recipes. Love him. I also made pina colada muffins, which I've posted about before. I think those are the highlights. I'll try to remember to blog more so I can remember recipes :)